Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Way of Life... Happiness In Climbing & Coaching

Nietzsche’s claim that “what does not kill me makes me stronger” has great intuitive appeal, and many of us believe that experiencing hardship and troubles can leave us in a better place than we were before. Psychological scientists have become increasingly interested in studying the positive life changes that people report in the aftermath of highly stressful life events including (but by no means limited to) diagnosis with terminal illness, bereavement, and sexual assault. This notion has been referred to with many different names, but the construct is most commonly referred to by scientists as adversarial growth, posttraumatic growth, stress-related growth,altruism born of suffering and benefit finding.

Posttraumatic growth (PTG) is a scientific construct that strives to capture these positive transformations in beliefs and behavior. PTG may take five forms: improved relations with others, identification of new possibilities for one’s life, increased personal strength, spiritual change, and enhanced appreciation of life. These positive changes relate to the development of important qualities of character, such as diligence, generosity, love, purpose, and humility. Thus, adversity may provide opportunities for the development of important character traits. (

My amazing German, Italian, & Spanish friends from my long walk
 on the Camino de Santiago de Compestela
When I chose to let the GB Team in Gijon get on the airport bus without me last year and go for a long solo walk through Spain, I realized a lot about myself and my resilience born from my life as it had been. I began to understand that difficult circumstances were only temporary and not to let that fear and insecurity create further panic or anxiety, because what I had previously experienced in my life made most current challenges seem small and ultimately lacking significance in my true well being in my pursuit for my ultimate and important goal of personal and true happiness...

Letting go on el camino...
The last few sunny days in Wales climbing in the most beautiful of surroundings with friends really brought home that I had made it. Made it, to the place I hoped I would when suffering a profound level of human pain a few years ago in the Pyrenees. Made it, to a life of more emotional freedom and less personal judgement. Made it, to a life where my life was my work and not my work my life. My happiness has become the center of how I operate my life and i am moving away from knowing more than the things I don't want in my life, but the things I do now. It has took me more time, than I thought I had left in me, but it all feels worth it now.

But, it has come in the shape of something I would never have imagined for myself all those years ago now when I was drowning in the empty world of high growth business for profit. It has come in the shape of giving who I am honestly to others against the backdrop of rock climbing. It would be nice to have transport again, a couple thousand in the bank, and more food in the cupboard, but I wouldn't give up chasing the most inspired life I can achieve for myself, so we walk more, spend less and be like Gandhi for a week or two! Swapping coaching for food, piano lessons or just friendship. Happiness.

I remember that first day bouldering on my own on Craig MAD in Scotland in 2010 feeling such delight in the physical movement of rock climbing again after 15 years of being away from it. And now, my life is shaped around it again, so lucky! But it took a lot to get to this place and it's not easy staying here when money is tight in coaching but the freedom I feel in myself is inexplicable and I just feel as though I am true to myself again like a boy playing on the rocks, just the sun shining on our face saying yes. Yes to what we are doing, yes to feeling happiness inside and yes to staying the course.

Stevie Haston & I doing new routes on Gozo Island
The sun on my face whilst out climbing with friends is one of the best feelings for me. The long reach to that small hold, when you wrap your finger tips round it's edge and your skin begins to bite with knowing confidence that you can pull up and through to the next hold is such a great feeling. That feeling when someone above you benefits from your words of encouragement to help them commit to engaging in their wrestle with fear with the possibility of a scary fall, is, happiness for me.

In my younger years as a climber, I was at war with the world and fed off the danger of what rock climbing brought me, but now as a coach in a sport, I am enjoying this new way of life where I get to give something that is real to others in a world that has so much to give me back. I am becoming a happier person in my little world on the rocks. A happier life with less fear of others, el humano.

When I left the world of business I thought that I wanted to be a teacher. It looked amazing to be so open with people and to teach them about something that had meaning for their lives, but I was too scared, I thought. And so, now I am there teaching what I know in rock climbing to others and watching it change their and my own life for the better. A great way of life in the pursuit of more and more happiness for me and for others. My integrity is everything for me now. Felizidad.

Referrals from clients:

"...This training season I decided to get all the help I can to speed up my improvement. I needed guidance to work towards my goals in long term. I also needed more vision and opinions about my exercises and weak links. I am glad I can share my training with Mark..." (Ville Mustonen, Finland)

" I met Mark in Glen Nevis on his return to climbing to check out some lines he had in mind for me, I wasn't really training at this point but after a day or two talking and training with him I had a much more structured idea of what to do to improve and I did" (Kev Shields)